Australian Headhunters


The Dayaks of Borneo formed a force to help the Allies following their ill treatment by the Japanese. Australian and British special operatives of Z Special Unit transformed some of the inland Dayak tribesmen into a thousand-man headhunting army. This army of tribesmen killed or captured some 1,500 Japanese soldiers.


In the past the Dayak were feared for their ancient tradition of headhunting practices. After conversion to Islam or Christianity and anti-headhunting legislation by the colonial powers the practice was banned and disappeared, only to resurface in the late 90s, when Dayak started to attack Madurese emigrants in an explosion of ethnic violence
Every year or two the Dayaks hold a feast called Gawai Autu in honour of the departed spirits whith they believe surround the heads which hang in their houses. In this manner they hope to keep in favour with the spirits and so have good fortune.




Z Special Unit (also known as Special Operations Executive (SOE), Special Operations Australia (SOA) or the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD)) was a joint Allied special forces unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia. Predominantly Australian, Z Special Unit was a specialist reconnaissance and sabotage unit that included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, predominantly operating on Borneo and the islands of the former Netherlands East Indies.


A GROUP ON BOARD MV KRAIT EN ROUTE TO THE SINGAPORE AREA DURING OPERATION JAYWICK

The unit carried out a total of 81 covert operations in the South West Pacific theatre, with parties inserted by parachute or submarine to provide intelligence and conduct guerrilla warfare. The best known of these missions were Operation Jaywick and Operation Rimau, both of which involved raids on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour; the latter of which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three commandos either in action or by execution after capture.

In his memoirs, former leading aircraftsman, Jack Wong Sue, claimed that Z Special Unit commandos in Borneo killed 1,700 Japanese for the loss of 112 commandos, as well as training more than 6,000 guerrillas. The activities of the commandos laid the groundwork for the Allied invasion of Borneo in 1945


Although the unit was disbanded after the war, many of the training techniques and operational procedures employed were later used during the formation of other Australian Army special forces units and they remain a model for guerrilla operations to this day.